By Georgette Moger
Talk about a floral fantasy. This spring, cocktails made with fresh blossoms are spreading like wildflowers. Whether plucking from their own backyards, from rooftop gardens, or just neighborly sharing of their fortuitous abundance, bartenders are serving up a bounty of blossoms to cocktail enthusiasts. From restaurant bars to cocktail bars to hotel lobby and pool bars floral garnishes of jasmine flowers and hibiscus have been spotted on the west coast, while across the pond in London capucine capers take center stage and in the south of France a bounty of bougainvillea premiers in a punch. All proving that no matter where you wield your tins and mixing glass the garden is merely an arm’s reach away.
Join us as we take a gander to see what’s sprouting up at home and abroad.
In Los Angeles, the neighborhood of Brentwood holds a veritable Eden of earthly delights. Nick Westbrook, In-House Mixologist at Farmshop, finds the humid nights of spring lingering with the scent of jasmine. “One night when I left work, I took a big indulgent inhale and babbled something about how much I love jasmine.” Farmshop’s sommelier, Aida Parsa, overheard Westbrook’s sigh, and brought him a beautiful bag of wild Persian jasmine from her mother’s backyard. Westbrook sensed cocktail magic on the horizon. “The flowers were so fragrant and the buds so vibrant, I created an infusion with some scented tea pearls from China. The tannins from the tea reinforce the subtle bitterness of the jasmine but the Lillet brings it back to the floral—the Porto Branco lends a touch of fruit.”
Que Soraya Soraya, Nick Westbrook, Farmshop, Los Angeles, CA
2 oz. Jasmine-infused Soju vodka*
1 oz. Lillet Blanc
1 oz. Porto Branco, or white port
1 Jasmine ice globe*
1 thin peel of seasonal orange or small citrus, expressed and rubbed around the rim
Build all ingredients in a rocks glass, including jasmine ice globe. Before stirring the drink, take a paring knife to the part of the orange rind that was just peeled. Make a deeper cut into the citrus, peeling off a section with pulp. Squeeze that part over the drink, adding a touch of fresh juice. Stir with a bar spoon 10-15 times and serve.
1 750 ml bottle Soju vodka, with 4 ounces reserved
1 tbsp. Chinese Jasmine Pearls
3 sprigs Wild Jasmine
Add Chinese jasmine pearls plus several sprigs of wild jasmine to the bottle of vodka. Strain after six hours. If the infusion is more bitter than floral, dilute with the reserved vodka until a balanced flavor is achieved.
Jasmine ice globes
Use a silicone mold and distilled water that has been boiled for several minutes and allowed to cool. Add the flowers to the molds and fill only half full with water. Once frozen, fill to the top and return to the freezer until solid.
**Photo by Molly Posey
Every April, the city of Carlsbad is awash in blossoms whether pouring out of window boxes, spreading over sprawling resorts or tied in bundles at farmer’s markets. From April 5th to the 15th, local bars and restaurants have a chance to show off Carlsbad’s new blooms with the Petal to Plate Festival, where attendees have a chance to taste culinary creations that feature a flurry of fleurs. At the Omni La Costa, Director of Food & Beverage, Patrick Sarte creates a unique menu of libations, fresh from the flower patch. “It’s easy to be inspired by the lush landscape of the resort,” says Sarte. “For this drink I looked to our iconic Omni hibiscus logo and used the subtle aroma of rose water, the refreshing citrus twist in the vodka and a hint of lemon and hibiscus syrup—spring in a glass!”
Rosebiscus, Patrick Sarte, Omni La Costa, Carlsbad, CA
1 ¼ oz. Ketel One Citroen Vodka
¾ oz. St-Germain Elderflower Liqueur
½ oz. Wild Hibiscus Company Flower Syrup
¼ oz. Rosewater
1 oz. Lemon Juice
2 oz. Club Soda
In a shaker, pour the vodka, St.-Germain, hibiscus syrup, rosewater and lemon juice. Fill with ice and shake vigorously. Fill Collins glass with ice. Strain the shaker into the glass and top with club soda. Stir and garnish with a hibiscus flower.
**Photo courtesy of Visit Carlsbad
In London, over at Mr. Fogg’s Gin Parlour where cream cakes and gin concoctions are the call of the day, Bartender Paul Carpenter has combined the delicate flavors of the season’s capucine flowers (Nasturtium) with the piney, meadowsweet botanicals of a Norwegian mountain gin. “This drink is basically a twist on a dry martini,” says Carpenter. “The gin itself is really fresh and herbal, the Cocchi Americano brings some sweetness and some texture to the drink, while the vermouth infusion adds depth and sharpness. The flavor of the capucine flowers lends a touch saltiness and a refined floral finish.”
Cousine Capucine, Mr. Fogg’s Gin Parlour, Paul Carpentier, London, UK
1½ oz. Vidda Torr Norway Gin
½ oz. infused dried capucine capers Dolin Dry Vermouth*
½ oz. Cocchi Americano
2 dashes Orange Bitters
In a mixing glass filled with ice, combine gin, vermouth infusion, Cocchi Americano and orange bitters. Stir until sufficiently chilled. Strain into a chilled Nick & Nora glass. Float one capucine flower atop cocktail or garnish with a caper.
Capucine Vermouth Infusion
1/3 oz. of fresh, dried, non-treated Nasturtiums flowers
16 oz. of Dolin Dry Vermouth
Rinse flowers and dry thoroughly. In a glass container, combine flowers and vermouth. Store covered in refrigerator for three days, then filter into jar.
Casting aside tales of punsch-swigging buccaneers, Emmanuel Balestra, Manager of the Bar Galerie Le Fouquet at Le Majestic in Cannes, set out to create a refreshing, low ABV cocktail to keep spirits high while ensuring no one goes overboard. “Pirates were the first to mix tafia, the predecessor of rum, with fruit juices and sugar to create an explosive cocktail to serve young sailors in the Royal Navy to get them drunk,” says Balestra. “I recently revisited these ingredients to create a cocktail that was lighter and more refined, beginning by replacing the sugar with pineapple water. Using fresh leaves of rose geranium, abundant in the south of France, and at the Majestic, the floral aromas deliver a delicate, honey note.”
Majestic Punch, Bar Galerie du Fouquet’s Cannes, Emmanuel Balestra, Cannes, FR
2 oz. Grand Arôme white rum
3 oz. Pineapple Geranium Water*
Dried pineapple and rose geranium leaf garnish
Pour rum and pineapple water into a mixing glass filled with ice. Stir. Serve in an Old Fashioned glass filled with ice. Garnish with dried pineapple and rose geranium leaf.
For the pineapple water:
Cut a whole pineapple into cubes. Place into a 2-liter pot and cover with 2½ cups of cold mineral water. Add 1 teaspoon of fleur de sel. Cover and simmer on low for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and add 25 green leaves of rose geranium. Stir. Cover and let sit for 24 hours. Filter into jars. Yields approximately 5 cups.
**Photo by Alban Couturier